The Ancient Library

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On this page: Thyestes – Thyiades – Thymele – Thyone – Thyoneus – Thyrsus



native town, but only to be murdered either at Athens or in Thrace, a few years later (not later than 395 b.c.).

At the very beginning of the Pelopon-nesiau War Thucydides foresaw, as he him­self says, that the struggle would surpass all earlier wars in magnitude and impor­tance, and accordingly at once resolved to write its history, and began his prepara­tions for his narrative without delay. His banishment afforded him the opportunity of calmly observing the course of events, of making inquiries from both parties, and ascertaining the truth with the greatest accuracy. At all events, at this time he was already beginning the composition of certain parts of his work. He proceeded to elabo­rate the whole directly after his return from banishment, but had only reached the twenty-first year of the war (411), when death prevented the completion of his task.

The existing history was published by another hand, and was continued by XenS-phon as well as by Thedpompus. Its general plan is simple and artless in the highest degree. After a critical examina­tion of early Greek history and an exposi­tion of the internal and external causes of the war, the history follows the succession of events, with a strict division of each year into summer and winter. This ar­rangement, while it supplies us with the chronological sequence of events in an accurate form, sometimes prevents our ob­taining a general view of the whole, and leads to facts which are intimately con­nected with one another becoming separated by the course of the narrative.

The matter falls into three great divisions: (1) the Archidamian war down to the peace of Nicias, 421 b.c. (books i-v 24); (2) the interval of disquiet, together with the great Sicilian expedition, down to 413 (v 25-vii); (3) the Decelean war, of which the first two years alone are included in the eighth book. The first four books alone are marked by even and uniform execution. Next to this part in excellence comes the history of the Sicilian expedi­tion (vi and vii). Far inferior to the rest of the work are books v and viii. The latter presents us with only a sketchy col­lection of historical materials.

In writing the history of the Pelopon-nesian War, his aim (as he himself states at the beginning of his work) was to produce i possession for all time, and not only a showy declamation for the listeners of the moment. This object he has attained, since

he founds his work on the most careful investigation of facts, carried out with most conscientious criticism. Endued with the most penetrating insight, he searches into the connexion and causes of events. His narrative is characterized with an unswerving love of truth, calmness, and impartiality of judgment, without the inci­dental digressions with which the history of Herodotus is interwoven, and is marked by an abstinence from all personal reflexions. The speeches, which are inserted in accor­dance with the universal custom of ancient historians, are in no author so far from being mere displays of rhetorical skill. In no history are they distinguished by such depth of philosophy and richness of thought as in that of Thucydides, who uses them exclusively with the object of unfolding the motives of actions and expounding the sentiments of the speakers.

He displays a marvellous skill in lucid description, as in the harrowing account of the plague of Athens; equally striking is his vivid portraiture of the characters of distinguished personages.

In accordance with his personal charac­ter, his style is grave and elevated. It does not exhibit the easy flow and charming grace of a Lyslas, IsScrates, Xenophon, or Plato. On the contrary, it is often harsh and rugged, interspersed with archaic and poetical phrases, and is concise to the verge of obscurity and unintelligibility. This is especially the case in the speeches, which, with their fulness of thought and their effort to express as much as possible in the fewest words, are among the most difficult portions of Greek literature.

Thjfestes. Son of Pglops, brother of Atreus (q.v.).

ThyiadiSs. Women who celebrated wild orgies in honour of Dionysus.

Thymele. The altar of Dionysus which stood in the centre of the or­chestra in the Greek theatre (q.v.).

Thyone. The name of the deified Sgmele (q.v., and cp. dionysus).

Thyoneus. Another name of Dionysus (q.v.).

W'TH, ™ meo m Naples Museum.)

Thyrsus. A staff car­ried by Dionysus and his attendants, and 1 wreathed with ivy and vine-leaves, terminating at the top in a pine-cone. (See cut, and cp. dionysus, fig. 3.)

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